31 March 2014

Ian Gawler Blog: Cancer prevention – it’s all in the mind - and the booze and the shopping!

The World Cancer Report 2014 has just been released and it is another major document that highlights the best way to treat cancer – prevent it. The report, compiled by over 250 leading scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) emphasizes prevention through adopting a healthy lifestyle, including cutting down on alcohol.

So this week, we look at this new evidence and consider 5 ways in which we can use our minds to keep healthy – and in doing so, prevent cancer – along with most other illnesses you would rather not have! Then more news of the cancer residential program Ruth and I will present soon, but first

Thought for the day

Health is not just a matter 
of thinking happy thoughts.
Sometimes the biggest impetus to healing 
can come from jump-starting the immune system 
with a burst of long-suppressed anger
          Candace Pert author of Molecules of Emotion

The World Cancer Report 2014 compiles the most up-to-date analysis of data on all aspects of cancer. Included is a focus on lifestyle behaviors that contribute to cancer, and you probably know the main ones - smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, being overweight or obese, and lack of exercise.

Yet what controls our lifestyle choices and the choices others make? Simple! It is our mind of course. But who or what controls our mind? Is it our own habits and beliefs? If so, how well do they serve us? Is it our family and friends with their own particular views? If so, how well do they serve us? What about the advertisers? Many of them seem hell bent on having us eat and drink large quantities of unhealthy rubbish.

In response to the report, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) called for action, highlighting a "need to deepen the global commitment to cancer prevention."

"Decades of research have shown that cutting tobacco use is the single most powerful way to prevent many deadly cancers, especially in developing countries where smoking is most widespread. Tackling obesity, a key modifiable risk factor for many cancers, is another top prevention priority," ASCO said in a statement.

“In the United States, 1 in 3 cancer deaths is related to obesity, poor nutrition, or physical inactivity, and the problem will only increase as more countries and regions adopt the diet and lifestyles of more economically developed economies."

"We can take action, in part by making healthier choices in our own lives and helping our patients and their families do the same. But we also need to hold national and global leaders accountable for curbing tobacco use and encouraging and ensuring access to cancer treatment and prevention resources for everyone in need," ASCO commented.

Alcohol is way more damaging than many yet realize
The IACR has labeled alcoholic beverages "carcinogenic to humans" and listed them as a group 1 carcinogen. (follow the link to see the full list). This classification was first made in 1988, and then confirmed in 2007 and 2010. The IACR estimates that in 2010, alcohol-attributable cancers were responsible for 337,400 deaths worldwide.

Why does alcohol cause cancer? One of its major constituents, ethanol is metabolized to acetaldehyde, and this has a genotoxic effect. There may also be other mechanisms involved, including increased oxidative stress, increased estrogen concentrations, and changes in folate metabolism and DNA repair.

The agency says “cancers caused by drinking alcoholic beverages include those of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breast.

What to do? Five ways to use your mind and be well!

1. Be informed 
You probably already know the risk factors, although the news on alcohol may be somewhat new and a bit disconcerting. For guidelines, see the earlier blog that clarifies safe recommendations around alcohol – CLICK HERE

Be reminded that enjoying a healthy lifestyle is the answer to long lasting good health and is powerfully preventive.

2. Develop an enthusiasm for looking after your self
How extraordinary to be in a human body! Yet how fragile it is. Delight in your body’s complexity and capacities. Take a modest but firm pride in caring for it.

3. Be diligent
Yes, this is the thing. Consistency in what you do mostly. Eat well most of the time, avoid alcohol most of the week, play up occasionally if that takes your fancy, and enjoy being vibrantly healthy.

4. Train your mind
Meditate, use affirmations and imagery if you need to change old habits or establish new ones (refer to The Mind that Changes Everything).

Seek out the company of like-minded people; avoid situations or people that are likely to lead you astray. Maybe join me and Ruth for one of the series of workshops I am presenting this year on the theme Health, Healing and the Mind. First one is in Warrnambool on May 4th. This and the others are on the website. For details CLICK HERE

5. Final tip - meditative shopping

Eating begins with the shopping!
If it ain't in the cupboard,
you can't eat it!
If home is full of good food,
you have a good chance.
Remember to be on guard when shopping
and make good choices when doing so.

Ideally, treat shopping as a meditation in its own right – an active meditation that is done with a calm and clear mind and the welfare of your own good self and those you care for at heart. While this may take just a tad longer, it is worth planning for; and speaking personally, it turns shopping into something I really enjoy.

Book: You Can Conquer Cancer -  There is so much about prevention in this book. I would love it if more people who were well were to read it.

CD: Mind Training – How the mind works and how we can use it to best advantage – including developing healthy habits

Exercise - and how to do it

Alcohol, health and wellbeing

Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing 
This 8 day cancer recovery program residential program is evidence based and will be highly experiential. We will cover the full range of Integrative Medicine options, with the emphasis on what people can do for themselves – therapeutic nutrition, exercise and meditation, emotional health, positive psychology, pain management, the search for meaning and so on.

Kawai Purapura - the beautiful location outside Auckland NZ where the program will be held

I will personally present the majority of the content but along with Ruth, participants will have the additional support and experience of Liz Maluschnig and Stew Burt; two very experienced and committed New Zealanders.

For details on this and the other cancer related residential programs for 2014 CLICK HERE


  1. The info on alcohol is new to me. I cut it out completely four weeks ago, and certainly do not miss it. I assume that any amount is toxic?

    1. Any alcohol impacts on liver function. In a healthy person, there is a quick recovery, but this is why lots of alcohol free days are recommended and drinking alcohol every day is not. For someone already not well, having your liver under load is obviously unhelpful, that is why for people recovering from cancer, we suggest no alcohol.